Monday, June 27

The Afghan Ethnic Labyrinth

Afghanistan is a very heterogeneous country. There is no single clearly majority group, which has had a very negative influence on the 48 years of civil wars and foreign invasions that began with the coup that overthrew the monarchy in 1973. The social hierarchy depends largely on ethnicity, as the Spanish military who trained an Afghan battalion found in 2010. When the recruits saw that rank depended only on merit, they protested, claiming that: “There are rules here that you must understand.” It was unacceptable for a hazara gave orders to a tayiko or yet Uzbek, or that any of these sent on a Pashtun. Even the Afghan Communist Party was divided

by ethnicity: The Jalq faction –’the masses’– was made up mainly of rural Pashtuns, while the Parchan faction –’the banner’–, were of urban origin, including many non-Pashtuns. It was the Parcham, the supposedly moderate wing of the Afghan communist partisan, who incited the Soviet invasion of 1979.

The entire Afghan society is very conservative. Photographs from the period 1960-1980 are circulating online, showing Afghan women without a veil, dressed in Western clothes, driving cars, working and studying at university faculties. The photos are authentic, but they only represent an extremely small urban segment, while the vast majority of the population remained totally anchored in the past.


Sunni Muslims of the East Iranian language group. They are the dominant group. Are the 42 percent of the total Afghan population, about 12 million. The Pashtun Durrani tribes founded the Afghan kingdom in 1747 and conquered an empire that encompassed today’s Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pashtuns monopolized all command posts and were exempt from taxes. They were governed by an ancient code of conduct, the Pashtunwali, which in practice prevails over Islam. For example: according to the Quran, women inherit half as men, but they do inherit. According to him Pashtunwali code, they do not inherit anything from anything.

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Dynastic civil wars, great rebellions by subject peoples, and British colonialism dismantled the Durrani empire, leaving Afghanistan reduced to its present limits. That is why there is a considerable ethnic Pashtun population in Pakistan, 15 percent of the total; about 25 million. All Afghan governments have always claimed the lost territories, but only ethnic Pashtuns.

Afghan Pashtuns tend to be a very closed and ultra-conservative group. The mere fact of asking a rural Pashtun how many women are in a house – to take the census – can be considered an intolerable offense that justifies killing the pollster. Northern Pashtuns are more cultured and modern, and in the 1990s they demanded education for their daughters in violation of Taliban edicts. But in general, they still consider themselves the dominant group, the masters of the country, and the Taliban are an almost exclusively Pashtun militia.


They have a state of their own, Tajikistan, –144,000 km2 and 8.5 million inhabitants– former Soviet territory until 1991. They speak an Iranian language similar to Pashtun. Afghan Tajiks make up 27 percent of the population. Unlike the Pashtuns, they are not organized into tribes, but in other respects they are very conservative and their women do not wear burqas but often wear their faces covered. Before the Soviet invasion, Tajiks and Pashtuns were the majority in the officer corps. The legendary commanderMasud He was Tajik. When the Tajiks took over Kabul in 1992, they took over the government and all positions were taken over by people of the valle de Panshir, especially in the Ministry of Defense. After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, they repeated the play until the Americans forced them to renounce that monopoly.

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Muslims, but Shiites; make up the largest shiite group from Central Asia. They are about 10 percent of the population, about 3 to 4 million. For the Taliban, the Shiites are false Muslims and it is lawful to exterminate them. Hazara women are less subdued than Pashtuns. They are allowed to hold public office and many of them fight in battle alongside their men and have killed the Taliban in combat. They have traditionally suffered harsh discrimination and used to be relegated to the worst jobs. Unlike the rest of Afghans, they are not white but Mongolians, which favors their discrimination. When the Taliban demanded that all men grow beards, the Hazaras had a hard time because they tend to be hairless. Many interpreters of the Spanish army eran hazaras.


Turkic-speaking Sunnis. They occupy much of the arable land and are mostly farmers, but they are seen as belligerent, quarrelsome, and fond of pillage. They are about 9 percent of the population. Their lands border the independent state of Uzbekistan –447,000 km2 and 33 million inhabitants. Uzbek women often have their faces exposed and dress in bright colors. its Islam is moderate and tolerant.


Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslims. They are 2 or 3 percent of the total, just over a million, and live in a thin border strip with the independent state of Turkmenistan. However, the Turkmen state has never lifted a finger to help its Afghan brothers because it was led by the mad dictator Saparmat Niyazov until his death in December 2006. His illegitimate son succeeded him Gurbanguli Berdimujamedov, after rigged elections in which he obtained 89.2 percent of the vote.

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